The Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston ended earlier this week. This post covers my overall impressions about the conference material. Apologies in advance for a longish post.
Given my insane meeting schedule and my objectives for the conference, I used 3 criteria to pick sessions. Here’s what I was looking for:
a) Practitioners before cheerleaders, skeptics and early adopters. Were there enough practitioners in attendance?
b) Did the event generate adequate tangible advice to show practitioners what works and what doesn’t, how to sell this internally, and finally, how to drive adoption?
c) Did the environment encourage their participation?
Two Thumbs Up to the first 2 questions. As to C, so, so. There were a good number of practitioners from companies such as BoA, Raytheon, Alcatel-Lucent, Allstate, Humana, M&M Mars & Eli Lilly. And a good number of tactical sessions. So in my book, all up, I think the conference was a success for those who wanted to be able to put learning to work.
On the other hand, the conference was a bit too Vendor centric – not in terms of attendance necessarily but in terms of who had a louder voice. There were in fact a lot of practitioners in the audience. I just wish their stories could have been heard.
A quick disclaimer: This re-cap reflects my favorites from sessions I attended; not across all available sessions. I missed some superb stuff but I’m sure others will speak to those.
The Good Stuff
Looking at it from a practitioners standpoint, what impressed me most was heavy weighting towards content on tactical insights that practitioners can use when they get to work, tomorrow. Sessions covered some long range thinking but plenty of actionable tricks and how tos that can let implementers and program managers sleep well at night.
Mike Gotta moderated Community & Social Network Sites: Think Adoption, Not Deployment. Dan McCall, Kishan Mallur and Erik Johnson cited specific examples how they generated buzz on the cheap, got influencers to become evangelists, and created a sense of ownership. The session was peppered with clever, even quirky tips such as a button called “shady” for questionable content that needed moderation, to creating stickers as invite codes that a user can distribute at their discretion. Genentech for instance, calls their social network GenePool and they tell their users “don’t pee in the pool”, as a way to encourage clean, relevant interaction. Again, not brain surgery but tactical marketing ideas that generate buzz. Ben Kepes of Cloud Ave was nice enough to live blog the session, here.
Another favorite session was Lee Bryant’s Transition Strategies for Enterprise 2.0 Adoption, that showcased specific details on how to manage separation anxiety when transitioning from 1.0 to social computing environments. For instance, Lee described methods to illustrate the similarities between an RSS Reader and Email on a Blackberry. How to highlight the customizable nature of a social network over a static phone book. Or how to gently transition from a stogy old one way Intranet to a by-directional collaboration platform. All in all, tricks that a practitioner can act on soon after returning from the conference. For a more detailed analysis, Sandy Kemsley has a great write up, here.
I’m a little biased here because I read or listen to pretty much anything Marc Smith and Kate Niederhoffer say or write and because I believe that Analytics/Intelligence is going to be a huge differentiator in this space. So it was a treat to attend Metrics in the Hands of Users. Marc, Kate and Daniel Debow kindled a great discussion on how to drive, visualize and measure performance via less geeky constructs. I’m convinced that articulating the sociological and psychological (respectively) considerations as a catalyst for Enterprise 2.0 transformation can play a big role towards both executive buy in and successful execution. Moreover, my sense is that correlating the use of social computing as a way to respond to (not change) basic human nature can make it all seem achievable and less daunting. Contrast that with sermons on the glories of wiki based collaboration or the promise of orgasmic levels of workforce liberation via the use of a Twitter-like public status update. I wish this session was not at the tail end of the conference. We need more of this, up front.
Reality 2.0: Getting Started with Enterprise Social Networking by Mike Gotta was possibly one of the best research efforts I’ve seen on the topic of Enterprise Social Networking. Mike does a superb job of objectively “telling it like it is” whether its vendor capabilities/holes or inherent execution considerations such as the focus on deployment when it should be on adoption, or the threat to middle management and the curse of social caste systems. Lots of lessons not only for adoption but also excellent material to set expectations with LOB executives on risks that need to be mitigated, upfront. Bill Ives has an excellent post on this session, here.
Again, there were others that also had good insights. And I think the baseline research done for Open Enterprise is a treasure chest.
On to the sub optimal stuff.
Conference Format – Get Micro: Some of the most repeatable ideas and common problem sets I heard surfaced in conversations over dinner and in the reception area. Many from senior program managers, architects, and even executives who were ridiculously smart but not necessarily the kind that want to walk up to a microphone in a 300 seat auditorium. Early lifecycle categories such as E2.0 need more casual break out sessions to foster discussions where repeatable problems, ideas and insights emerge. These off hand discussions I had included insight such as the limitations and possibilities of leveraging social computing tools on the BlackBerry. Which vendor apps really afford a customer centric mobile interaction model vs. those that are simply riding the polish and hype that comes with the iPhone developer platform. What’s particularly working for sales reps in their orgs? And on and on. My sense is that a lot of good insight was left of the table and we need a format that brings these topics to the surface.
Objectivity: This certainly wasn’t germane to most sessions but in some cases, there needed to be a clear distinction between research findings and objectivity on behalf of the speaker. When it’s research, it needs to be presented as findings, not tilted towards the preferences or enthusiasm of the speaker. And when an expert, who happens to be a vendor, is invited to a topical panel, little less product highlighting and more industry based knowledge sharing needs to be enforced. If I feel like I need to hire you (as a consultant) or buy your product (as a vendor) to really get the benefit of your opinion, then something’s lost.
So, as a practitioner, I think the conference brought a lot of actionable learning to the table and that’s a big win.
Personally, I can’t put a price on what I got out of these 4 days. I got to meet and thank a ton of folks who comment here on Pretzel Logic. I met folks whose stuff I read and learn from, every day. We exchanged a lot of ideas, opined on what’s hot and what doesn’t have legs in the space. We closed down bars.
This is the first of a series of posts on the conference. Next up are take aways on the space, distribution models and what customers should be asking of service providers.
Finally, a big thanks to Susan Scrupski – I might not have made the trip out but I did, and for that I’m grateful to her.